Your Amazon Prime membership will now include James Bond. That’s the long haul of e-commerce giant Amazon’s $ 8.45 billion (US) purchase of MGM, the famous Hollywood studio whose hits include not only the British spy, but also “The Handmaid’s Tale, ”the Rocky series, and TV shows like“ Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. ”
Not that it should come as a surprise, however. The acquisition of a major Hollywood studio by a tech company was really a question of when rather than if. As technology developed to encompass everything – not just gadgets or shopping, but also music and movies, fitness, fashion – it was inevitable that it would start to engulf other industries.
Part of the spread of tech companies to all facets of life is due to the nature of technology – our displays are where we interact with the world. Still, buying a movie studio by an e-commerce and cloud computing company is cause for pause.
Amazon bought MGM because it could because, like other tech companies, it has billions of dollars to consolidate its dominance by acquiring what it wants. And this ability of tech companies to absorb only part of the culture may portend a much less dynamic, diverse and interesting future.
Consider the language of the acquisition itself. As tech site The Verge reported, Amazon hadn’t acquired so much particular properties, but instead bought “17,000 hours of television” – as if it wasn’t entertainment or art that MGM owned only by “content”.
This insidious phrase, which reduces everything from music, film, writing and art to consumable pieces of fluff, is precisely what high technology does to the material of culture. While companies like Google, Amazon or Apple serve billions of customers, they are all in a race to complete their offerings – to make their small gardens more attractive.
This is why Amazon bought MGM. On the one hand, it can use MGM’s vast library to complement its Amazon Prime Video service, which makes it more competitive against the huge libraries of Netflix and Disney Plus. Additionally, just as Amazon has invested half a billion dollars in an upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series, it can also tap into MGM’s intellectual property stable to produce new content.
So get ready for Bond’s prequel to the exploits of young James in high school, or Rocky in space, or something similarly silly.
Because isn’t that exactly what plagues the so-called “content industry”? As properties like the Marvel and Star Wars films dominate the box office, entertainment doesn’t exist so much to delight or talk about the complexity and bittersweet nature of being human as it does to exist – to be happier for it. the mill. It is no coincidence that, as was recently revealed, the hit and above all dreadful sequels to “Star Wars” weren’t even designed as a trilogy, but were simply patched up to better please the whims. of fans, becoming less films and more consumer goods.
But that’s what the age of big tech did to entertainment. And at least part of the root of the problem is the size and dominance of the tech companies themselves. As a small handful of businesses become the default entry point for art and entertainment, they continue to swallow content businesses and content dollars in order to keep growing. Netflix, for example, invests more than $ 15 billion (US) in content production – and for every rare, unique, or interesting series or movie, there are tons of forgettable or ill-prepared rates.
Cries of how technological or social change harms culture are nothing new and should always be treated with skepticism. But the growing economic strength of tech companies leaves them in a position to continue to engulf studios and creative businesses in order to feed the hungry mouths of their content needs.
Consider this: In the surprisingly readable new book by author Brad Stone on Amazon and Jeff Bezos, “Amazon Unbound,” Stone recounts how, when designing a new smartphone, Bezos asked his engineers if people were using or not their calendar apps. Billionaire Bezos didn’t seem to imagine that people without multiple personal assistants might need a way to organize their time.
It is an important reminder that the titans of technology, simply by their vast wealth and resulting importation, have long since separated themselves from the lives of ordinary people. And tech companies, with their market capitalization exceeding a trillion dollars, are less simply successful companies and more evil empires.
Movie studios are just another feather in their caps, all aspects of life are untapped markets waiting to be monetized and disrupted – and James Bond is not a cultural touchstone, not even a legacy of British imperialism worth rethinking, but just one more piece. of content among a sea of indistinguishable others.